The Malificar

Lamashan 21 Fireday waning moon

Teeth of Araska

On Lamashan the 21st, Jethrik is assigned to rigging repair. Once again the Jethrik is able to prove his worth as he nimbly makes his way through the up and down the ratlines, the small ladder-like rungs that are tied between the shrouds so the crew can climb up and down the rigging. He checks the shrouds and sheets are all in good repair, and that all the lines are made fast. During the day, he finds a chance to sneak into the wardroom and check out the sea charts. He looks over the chart on the wall and sees that it depicts the coast of Avistan and northern Garund, from the Varisian Gulf to the Eye of Abendego. It looks to be over a years worth of the Teeth of Araska’s travels that have been marked, mostly centered around Ilizmagorti, a pirate haven on Mediogalti Island just northwest of the Eye of Abendego. An island also rumored to be lair of the infamous Red Mantis assassins. Jethrik also notes tiny skull marks near Botosani, Magnimar, and Herma. Jethrik muses that these could perhaps indicate marooned enemies, secret hideouts, or even buried treasure.

That night, once everyone but the night watch are asleep, Jethrik sneaks out again and this time attempts to go beyond the wardroom door to see if he can poke around the captain’s cabin. What he finds instead is that the door leads to Ishana’s quarters and that she and the captain are noisily occupied in more amorous pursuits. Thick, seductive scents fill the air, ribbons of colored smoke winding their way up from an incense holder sitting on a simple writing desk. There is also a journal on the writing desk. Red and black curtains cover the walls, embroidered in stylized roses. An inviting bed fills much of the room’s remaining space, piled high with spotted and striped pelts of exotic animals. At the port end of the room there appears to be a part in the curtains and a cabin beyond that one.

Jethrik is tempted. Oh so very tempted to lift the journal. So very, very tempted… But then he’d have to put it back too, and he realizes that would just be tempting fate. He decides to quit while he’s ahead and backs away, though also tempted to cast grease on the rutting pirates. ‘Oh, being a pirate is no end of laughs!’ thinks Jethrik. Since the captain and his woman are so noisily preoccupied, Jethrik does take the time in the wardroom to find a scrap of paper and make notes on the wall chart and its markings before he retires for the night. He figures it may come in handy in case those markings indicate buried treasure he can dig up someday.

Lamashan 22 Starday waning moon

Teeth of Araska

On Starday, Lamashan the 22nd, Jethrik and some others are sent out on the longboats to hunt leatherback turtles so they can have turtle soup that night. Their hunt is successful and so that night they are able to enjoy a better meal than usual.

That night the captain truly does seem to be warming up to Jethrik but is not more forthcoming about his actual intentions in heading for Brinewall. “Ah bucko, I’m glad you’re takin’ t’ life aboard ship. T’ sweet trade we be engaged in be a wondrous thin’. I be aye that when we meet your old buckos at Brinewall they’ll see that you’ve found your true callin’. And o’ course if they need any assistance we’ll be happy t’ give it. ” A sincere desire to make things right with Jethrik’s former companions seems all that Captain Grudge is concerned with. He doesn’t even ask about any potential loot or buried treasure that may be there.

Lamashan 23 Sunday waning moon

 Teeth of Araska

On the 23rd, Selis points out that Jethrik, being a gnome, would make a good lookout as he has keener sight and hearing than humans. Captain Grudge agrees to give Jethrik a try but to the gnome’s dismay the 60’ climb to the crow’s nest is more than he is able to handle. Halfway up he finds himself unable to move any further and vertigo causes him to seize hold of the rope with a death grip, unable even to climb down. Disgusted, Ishana shouts, “Climb, you bugger!” The force of divine magic in her command forces Jethrik, his mind in a blind panic, to finish the climb up to the crow’s nest. He has no idea how he will bring himself to even attempt to climb down, and is now greatly afraid that when the time comes Ishana will force him to do it against his will with another spell. From time to time he sees her looking up at him with a malicious grin, her fingers idly tap the lash hanging from her belt.

Once in the crow’s nest however, and in spite of his fears of what will happen when his turn at watch ends, Jethrik does prove to be a good lookout. The sky is clear and bright blue, and the seas are relatively calm though there is a brisk breeze to fill the sails. Not long after passing out of the Varisian Gulf and into the Steaming Sea, Jethrik spies a ship on the horizon to their stern and upwind. The ship is probably a good 20 miles out. Once Jethrik has called out the ship and its position, Captain Grudge slackens the sails enough so that it can get close enough for them to identify it. The Teeth of Araska, at the moment, is flying the flag of Riddleport, marked by the rune engraved arch of stone called the Cyphergate. In addition, though the draconic masthead of the ship looks ominous enough, the ship doesn’t have any siege weapons displayed – no ballista or catapults on deck at any rate.

The ship continues to catch up with them throughout the next couple of hours and in the meantime Selis has come up to take a look himself. He takes the spyglass from Jethrik and curses. “Damn! Captain Grudge! It’s the Maleficar! Captain Venjam is still after us!” He hands the spyglass back to Jethrik and quickly climbs back down to the deck to consult with the captain and Ishana. Jethrik looks again and sees that it is a Chelish naval vessel, flying the red and black Chelaxian flag. Its mast is carved in the image of a devil out of the Nine Hells and its deck does display siege engines.

Captain Grudge soon has the Teeth of Araska at full sail and heading north along the Varisian coast past the Calphiak Mountains. The Maleficar follows, and so the chase runs on throughout the day and past sunset. When the Bloody Hour comes along, Jethrik is helped down from the crow’s nest by Selis but only to be battered with rope bashes, tied to the mainmast and given three stinging lashes by Ishana who declares, “Don’t think you’re too cute to be spared the lash little gnome. All on the Teeth of Araska must feel the lash if they can’t do the work assigned to them. Still, I will spare you a worse beating since you did eventually do your duty, even if I did have to waste a spell on you to do it.” She makes it very plain that she will not be approached by the likes of Jethrik, at least not that night. In any case, Selis remains aloft for the rest of the night, and half the crew is kept awake to maintain watch and keep the ship heading due north and sailing as close to the wind as they can in order to lose the Maleficar.

Lamashan 24 Moonday waning moon

Teeth of Araska

 The chase continues into the next day, even as ominous black clouds gather off the port beam. As a heavy rain drums down upon the ship, Jethrik is employed down in the galley, helping the cook prepare a cold porridge for breakfast and more turtle soup for the evening meal. Even as the ship flies from its pursuer and attempts to skirt the edge of the storm it continues heading north towards Brinewall.

Lamashan 25 Toilday waning moon

Teeth of Araska

The storm continues to build all through the night and into the next day. Winds howl, waves grow larger and larger, lightning flashes off in the west and thunder rolls across the sky. Despite this the chase continues. The Maleficar never strays more than a mile or two astern. During all this, Jethrik’s seasickness returns with a vengeance. The cook, a Varisian named Andrezi who has taken a liking to Jethrik as has most of the crew, provides Jethrik with hardtack biscuits but even this fails to settle Jethrik’s stomach. Fortunately, there is no bloody hour. However, neither is there a dinner as such or any idle time after. The pirates grab what food they can in between shifts attending to the rigging and battening all hatches and loose items on board.

Lamashan 26 Wealday new moon storm

Teeth of Araska

On Lamashan the 26th, the storm hits them in earnest. Waves slam into the hull and wind howls through the rigging. All sails have been furled and Captain Grudge has himself tied to the wheel so he will not be swept overboard. It is impossible to see anything through the sheets of rain more than a few yards away. Lighting continues to light the sky and the booming of the thunder is deafening. Fortunately for Jethrik his seasickness begins to recede in all this. He is still quite sick, but no longer as nauseous as he was when the storm was building. He stays below during most of the day cramped up in the tiny areas below decks with the other pirates who are not aloft working on the sails and rigging repairing sails, splicing ropes, and other odd jobs assigned to them by the boatswain, Solemn Jack. The dim lanterns rock and the timbers creak as the ship is thrown wildly about. Shadows dance crazily up and down the walls as the men fight the storm, nausea and fear! All the while, the two ships continue playing cat and mouse.

That night, Jethrik, now almost fully recovered from the storm-induced nausea, finds himself unable to sleep as his hammock sways back and forth as the ship is tossed about in the wild seas. He hops out of his hammock and sees that while there are a few pirates who are aloft, the others are either sick or sleeping and none are paying any attention to him. Jethrik takes the opportunity to creep over to the squat rickety door leading into the main hold and to quietly slip through into the middle hold. Jethrik recites a brief incantation and rubs powdered firefly ichor onto a silver piece to produce enough light to explore by. The dim light illuminates a sizable chamber cluttered with a collection of cargos and ship’s supplies. A heavy wooden grate in the floor leads below, as does a trap door at the fore end on the starboard side. Just to the left of the trap door is another door leading forward. Jethrik had been too busy really look around during his time as a runner a few days before and when they were hauling out extra sails and ropes for the rigging earlier in the evening so this time he pokes around and even casts another cantrip allowing him to magically sift through room to find things of interest without having to actually move things around or get up close. The only items he finds, however, are the ship’s weapons – twenty dismantled ballista and ammunition for them wrapped up in canvas in preparation for raids and attacks on hapless merchants but otherwise secured and hidden away. Other useful items include hooded lanterns, a few grappling hooks, several empty sacks, and of course lots of rope.

Jethrik walks over to the trap door and opens it to find a ladder leading into the darkness of the main hold. Stepping onto the ladder he finds that the hold is stacked with crates and barrels, most of them labeled with the names of prominent merchants or military navies like the Aspis Consortium, West Sea Brokerage and Sargava Shipping. The crates and barrels turn the hold into a small maze. Captured flags hang along the walls. Just as he is about to step off the ladder, Jethrik hears the hissing of a large creature, actually two large creatures, from the darkness beyond the corner of a stack of crates. ‘What is that?! Lizard men?! Naga?! Really big snakes?!’ wonders Jethrik as he scampers back up the ladder and closes the trap door behind him as quickly and quietly as he can.

Lamashan 27 Oathday waxing moon weakening storm

Teeth of Araska

On Lamashan the 27th the storm starts to weaken. It is still too dangerous to unfurl the sails and Captain Grudge continues to man the wheel, attempting to steer the ship so that it take the larger waves at a 45 degree angle from the bow so that it will not be swamped. That afternoon they catch sight of the Malificar once more, also with sails furled and attempting to keep itself from foundering. That is when Captain Grudge calls over Ishana and Selis. Selis then sends one of the other pirates down below. He comes back bearing Jethrik’s sword and returns it to the gnome who has been running messages.

Captain Grudge says to Jethrik, “I said before that I would make you t’ quartermaster and I mean t’ keep me word. Now one o’ t’ duties o’ a quartermaster be t’ lead t’ attack against enemy vessels. So here be your rapier. Now we be goin’ t’ steer for t’ Malificar and even unfurl some sail if we have to. It’s risky, but we’ll be able t’ catch them by surprise and like ourselves they won’t have their ballista on deck. So prepare t’ lead t’ boardin’ party.”

“Captain,” Jethrik shouts above the rain and wind, “I have no illusions regarding this command, but I will take it willingly none the less. Take us in, I’ll get the men ready.”

Captain Grudge smiles back at the gnome fiercely and then pulls on the large bell by the wheel. “Set t’ storm-jib! Haul up the jolly roger! Man your battle stations! Jethrik be now t’ quartermaster and will lead t’ attack when it be time t’ board!”

Within moments the pirates have take up their places. With the storm-jib set the Teeth of Araska flies towards the Chelaxian warship, but now the flag of Riddleport has been replaced with a ragged black flag bearing the image of a scarred red skull. As they approach Jethrik, still on the stern-castle, sees more clearly the red on black of the Chelaxian fylfot cross. He can see that the Malificar has also unfurled its storm-jib and is attempting to maneuver away from the Teeth of Araska. It all for nothing, however, as they drift into the irons – meaning that they are pointing straight into the wind and stuck, at the mercy of the pounding breakers. Captain Grudge howls and laughs like a madman as he steers the Teeth of Araska straight in towards the Malificar, laughing as the breakers threaten to capsize the latter.

Jethrik heads below to the main deck. Eager to board, the pirates gather around in their motley garments armed with cutlasses and crossbows.  Jethrik shouts over the storm, “Our captain has found our one chance to escape the Chelaxians. We are going to turn on them and attack while they are floundering. They won’t have their ballistae on deck, and they will be as helpless in this storm as we are – if the gods are good, maybe a bit more. Now is the time to show your salt and your iron!” The pirates all cheer heartily and several of them prepare grappling hooks as their ship closes with the enemy.

On the other ship, Jethrik sees that the crew is similarly armed but unlike the many colors and gaudy jewelry of the pirates, the Chelaxian marines are garbed in loose fitting uniforms of red trimmed black. There numbers are roughly equal to those of the pirates but they do not seem as eager for battle. Because of the storm their decks are indeed clear of siege engines, though a few dare to fire crossbows at the Teeth of Araska to no real effect.

As the ships close, Jethrik sees Captain Venjam on the sterncastle of the Malificar gesticulating with his cutlass and shouting frantic orders to the crew. Then he looks down and takes in the fearsome three bladed prow of the Teeth of Araska. His face turns ghostly white for he sees that the Malificar is doomed. The flying keels of the Teeth of Araska keep it steady, or as steady as can be expected in the storm. Everyone on both ships brace for impact just before the bladed prow of the Teeth of Araska staves in the hull of the Malificar below the waterline. Half a dozen grappling hooks are quickly thrown onto the Chelaxian warship. The Chelaxians prepare to repel the borders with pike, cutlass, and axe, but they find themselves unable to even keep their footing as Jethrik’s spell-work takes effect, making the deck as slippery as grease. As the deck rolls beneath them, the Chelaxians fall away, taking down even those not standing on the now frictionless portion of the deck.

“Woo hoo!” Jethrik shouts. ‘So far, so good’ he thinks to himself as he leaps onto the enemy warship, casting a new grease spell under the feet of Captain Venjam and his first mate. The two slide away and fetch up against the gunwales. The Chelaxians sailors scramble to their feet but it is too late. The pirates, with Jethrik in the lead, pour over the gunwales onto their deck. The two sides face off under the stern-castle shout curses and wave weapons menacingly at one another, each side daring the other to make the first move and begin the general melee.

Then Captain Grudge is standing at the bowsprit of the Teeth of Araska, one boot up on its draconic figurehead. He cracks his whip over his head with his left hand and points the tip of the rapier in his right hand at Captain Venjam, who is scrabbling to his feet. “You thar! You’re t’ one I want! Captain Mase Venjam, don’t think I don’t remember you. You were first mate o’ t’ Malificar five years ago when you Chelaxian devils ambushed us off Corentyn. We got away then but now I see you’ve taken up t’ chase. Well it ends here. Surrender yourself t’ me and I’ll let your men live. If not…”

“You are an addle brained fool if you think I’d surrender to you. The Chelaxian Empire does not negotiate with pirates! It is you who – Agh!” Captain Venjam abruptly stops and falls unconscious to the deck after receiving a blow to the head from the hilt of his first mate’s cutlass.

“I am Bafra, the first mate. We surrender. Take Captain Venjam and leave us to repair our ship. I swear to you in the name of the Prince of Darkness that this chase is over.”

Captain Grudge laughter cuts though even the howling winds. “Took t’ lash t’ you all too many times did he? Well it’s all t’ same t’ me. Fetch him t’ me lads.”

Several of the pirates quickly race up grab the enemy captain and bring him back aboard their own ship. Captain Grudge waves Jethrik and the others back aboard as well, tips his hat to the treacherous First Mate Bafra, and then begins shouting orders to disengage the two ships. Aboard the Malificar the Chelaxian sailors head below deck to man the pumps and repair the breach in their hull before they take on too much water.

That evening Captain Venjam is the “guest of honor” at the Bloody Hour. The pirates string him up by his thumbs from the yardarm of the mainsail with his toes barely touching the deck. As the ship rocks in to and from in the waning storm the Chelaxian captain swings back and forth over the deck. He groans in agony as his full weight pulls on his thumbs.

Ishana, in the meantime, prepares her lash. “I’ll strip the flesh from his bones for you my captain,” she purrs to Captain Grudge.

Jethrik taps on Captain Grudge’s elbow. “So what has he done that makes whipping him more valuable than playing a Chelaxian ship?”

“He’s more valuable than a founderin’ ship. This man has been a barnacle on me belly for years. For that alone he will die a slow death. But he also knows where Besmara’s Executioner was sunk. Don’t you Captain Venjam?” Venjam only groans in response.

“T’ Malificar sunk Besmara’s Executioner in t’ Shackles about a year ago. And she was laden with treasure wasn’t she? You know where it lies, and you be goin’ t’ tell us.” Captain Grudge nods to Ishana who begins lashing Captain Venjam, who had already been stripped to the waist by Solemn Jack before being strung up.

Captain Venjam croaks, “I will tell you nothing. To the Abyss with you all!”

“Oh you’ll talk. Aye, you will. We’ll have fun with you for quite some time I think. Plenty o’ time, for we still have t’ find poor Mr. Jethrik’s buckos. Then we can turn south aft t’ the Shackles. For now, I’ll cut you down and t’ t’ brig with you.”

Ishana draws her dagger and in quick motion slashes through both Captain Venjam’s thumb’s causing him to drop to the deck. Venjam, who has passed out, is picked up by Solemn Jack and Tubbs to be carried down to the brig. Before he is carried away, Jethrik casts a healing spell on Captain Venjam’s hands.

“You need to keep him alive for him to tell you about that ship don’t you?” Jethrik asks Captain Grudge. “If he bleeds out his life, or gets gangrene, you’ll lose that ship again. Not that I think he’ll tell you. He’s a military man. I’m sure his pride will keep him from telling you anything before he dies, if all he can expect is death by torture. I think you need to offer some means of escape. Maybe a third party could be found. Maybe a town that won’t trade him back to Cheliax, but isn’t a pirate haven. He could trade the location of that wreck for freedom with them. Not that you’d let that happen, but maybe it’s a plausible enough lie to get him to talk.”

“Very good, always thinkin’ you are. Well, we should arrive at Bunyip Bay tomorrow. If we find your bukcos thar we can leave him with them.”

Captain Grudge follows the crewmen and their prisoner below decks. “Have t’ get Ferris and Orband out of t’ way,” he grumbles.

That is when Jethrik sees at last what beasts have been guarding the main hold. Two Lirgen dragons, not true dragons but lizards the size of men from the lost kingdom of Lirgen in what is now the Sodden Lands. They crawl up onto the main deck with a slow but relentless pace. Their talons are like daggers and ropes of drool drip from their toothy maws. Captain Grudge holds them by leashes and allows them to settle by the mainmast. They hiss at Jethrik but Captain Grudge jerks on their leashes and keeps them from going after the unfamiliar gnome.

Jethrik is a little disappointed to see that they are not actual dragons or demons, though still dangerous enough to keep the like of him out of the main hold. Jethrik grits his teeth. “Fine!” he thinks “but when I tell people wild exaggerations of my exploits here, those things are going to be 6 armed demons!”